WILMINGTON, Del. – Today, U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, along with Sen. Tom Carper and Sen. Chris Coons (all D-Del.) formally dedicated the Mary Ann Shadd Cary Post Office on Delaware Avenue here.
Blunt Rochester introduced H.R. 5972, the Mary Ann Shadd Cary Post Office Dedication Act on February 26, 2020, and it was signed into law on January 5, 2021. Sens. Carper and Coons wrote a letter of support following protocol that calls for both senators to agree to move naming bills to the floor of the House or Senate.
“It’s difficult to put into words the remarkable life and legacy of Mary Ann Shadd Cary. An abolitionist, suffragist, journalist, newspaper editor and lawyer - she channeled her gifts to whatever purpose they were most needed in the name of freedom and the purpose of equality. When I learned of the full scope and breadth of Ms. Shadd Cary’s accomplishments, I was stunned to learn there were no formal memorials to her work in her home state of Delaware. That changes today,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “I was humbled to join Senator Carper, Senator Coons, family and descendants of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, along with representatives of the United States Postal Service to honor this remarkable Delawarean. May we all take a moment to recognize her remarkable achievements and be inspired by the spirit in which she led her life.”
“When Frederick Douglass asked how we could improve the lives of Black people in this country, it was Mary Ann Shadd Cary who famously responded, ‘We should do more and talk less,’ said Senator Carper. “Unfortunately, too few Americans have ever heard of her or her remarkable legacy. At just 25 years of age, she boldly took her place in the abolitionist movement and fearlessly demanded change. She was a true trailblazer, speaking out when few had the courage to do so, and she should continue to be an inspiration for us today. I am proud that, with this dedication, the thousands who come through Wilmington and pass by this busy post office will now know Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s name and legacy, and I want to thank Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester for all her hard work to finally get this done.”
“Mary Ann Shadd Cary was a torchbearer who led the way as a journalist, activist, lawyer, and the first Black woman to become a newspaper editor and publisher in North America," Senator Coons said. "Mrs. Shadd Cary dedicated her life to advancing equity, diversity, and rightful inclusion during an incredibly tumultuous period in our history. The dedication of the Mary Ann Shadd Cary Post Office is a fitting tribute and lasting reminder of her leadership, hard work, and steadfast commitment to the advancement of equality for all.”
“All Shadd Family members are taught at an early age about Mary Ann Shadd Cary and that they are related to an extraordinary woman,” said JanMichael Shadd Graine, great-great-great nephew of Mary Ann Shadd Cary. “She was born a free black in 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware. Her Father was a shoe cobbler by day and an abolitionist by night. She fought for civil rights and female suffrage, became the first black female to establish and edit a newspaper in North America, became a Union recruiting officer for African-Americans in the Civil War, and graduated from Howard University’s law school at the age of 59. The Shadd Family is overjoyed to have this Post Office, in her hometown, renamed in her honor. We would like to thank Congresswomen Blunt Rochester and her staff for all the hard work to make this wonderful event happen.”
Mary Ann Shadd Cary was a key figure in the suffragist movement, a staunch advocate for women and a prominent abolitionist. In Washington, D.C., where Shadd Cary spent the later years of her life and became one of the first African American women ever to earn a law degree in the United States, her home is designated as a National Historic Landmark. In Canada, there is a statue memorializing her. However, in Delaware, the state of her birth, until now there was no building or landmark dedicated to this pioneer.
Among her many accomplishments, Shadd Cary established the Provincial Freeman, a weekly newspaper based out of Canada, committed to racial and gender equality, thus becoming the first female African American newspaper editor and publisher in North America. During her later life, Shadd Cary was active in the women’s suffrage movement and advocated for the inclusion of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.